Popcorn is one of our favorite treats. It’s so easy to make, whether you throw some kernels into a pan, use a popcorn maker, or toss a bag in the microwave.
You can choose from different flavors and styles. You can select buttered or un-buttered or any other variety and even add different popcorn toppings and seasonings.
It’s one of the most versatile snacks and a little bit of popcorn can go a long way. You may buy some for the pantry only to have it last forever and never get used up.
Does popcorn expire? There are several factors that could affect the shelf life of your popcorn, but typically the quality of loose kernels in a container will last for up to a year, popped popcorn for 2-3 weeks, and popcorn kernel bags for 6-8 months.
In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about popcorn and whether or not it expires.
We will cover popcorn kernels, pre-popped popcorn, and microwave bag popcorn. There is much to learn so you can ensure your popcorn doesn’t go bad, so stick with us to keep your popcorn fresh and tasty.
Can Popcorn Expire? – A Complete Guide
As we go through this guide, we want to keep it simple but still cover all of the relevant information for you.
We are going to separate the guide into 3 different categories and cover popcorn kernels, popped popcorn, and microwave popcorn separately. Each of these is different in many ways.
Popcorn kernels are simply that. They are a type of dried corn kernel, distributed to make popcorn and other fun stuff.
These have not been cooked or popped. They have not been flavored, salted, buttered, or anything else either.
This means they can almost be identified as an uncooked or raw product. They are a pantry item, but some people have also been known to freeze their popcorn kernels to make them last a bit longer.
Do Popcorn Kernels Expire?
This is a simple one. They do not expire. In the next section, we will give you a basic overview of just how long they last.
What you really need to know is that they do not expire. You may find that your bag or container of popcorn kernels has a best-by date printed on it, but this is not an expiration date.
If a date is printed, it most likely will be for about 6-12 months from your purchase date. This is not a date of expiration. It means that the quality of your popcorn will begin to decline after this date but will still be edible.
How Long Do Popcorn Kernels Last?
Popcorn kernels you pop in a popcorn machine or on the stove are, by far, the easiest form of popcorn to preserve. They can potentially last an indefinite amount of time.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they will be perfect in 10 years when you decide to go ahead and pop those kernels.
Here is what you need to know. Popcorn kernels should be stored in a cool, dry place. Storing them in your pantry will be sufficient.
You will also want to make sure they are airtight. If they are in unopened store packaging, this is sufficient as long as there are no holes.
You can also place them into an airtight container or even seal them into a storage bag for additional protection.
While they don’t necessarily go bad, the air could cause them to get stale, so you will want to protect them as much as possible.
Additionally, you will want to make sure they aren’t in a location that is prone to moisture.
If you live in a humid climate, we recommend taking the extra steps for storage to protect your popcorn kernels from moisture. Moisture is another sure-fire way to reduce the shelf life of your kernels.
Ultimately, the recommendation for popcorn kernels is that they will stay good for 1-2 years, but if you store them well, they may last indefinitely.
You are most likely to notice signs of the kernels drying out, which may cause them to pop inconsistently when you make them. It’s best to avoid this and use fresh kernels instead.
There are also a variety of other things to avoid when using a popcorn machine, so we recommend checking out our article to prevent chewy popcorn and other popcorn mistakes.
Now, let’s talk about popped popcorn. Popped popcorn is like a bag of chips. Once it’s popped or opened, it can go stale. Let’s dig into the details.
Does Popped Popcorn Go Bad?
In short, popped popcorn does not go bad. However, popped popcorn quality is affected over time. If you eat a bit at a time for too long, opening and closing the bag many times in the process, the quality will quickly go down.
Once popped popcorn has been popped or opened, it is downhill from there.
Don’t get us wrong, if you store it properly, popped popcorn might still be good for a decent amount of time, but certainly not as long as those kernels in your pantry. The best-by date on popped popcorn from a container is a freshness date.
While popped popcorn doesn’t go bad, it doesn’t necessarily taste good. It is best when it is freshly popped or opened, otherwise, it can quickly become stale.
You will want to store it properly to maintain freshness as long as possible, but it will be short-term.
How Long Does Popped Popcorn Last?
Popped popcorn is the most susceptible type of popcorn to the elements. We mentioned earlier that it is comparable to a bag of chips.
You know what we mean; when you open that bag of chips you really only probably have a week or two of freshness.
It’s similar with popcorn. Popped popcorn will last for about 2-3 weeks – once opened – when stored properly. You will want to be cautious and store it in a tin, storage bag, or an airtight container.
The key to getting the most out of it is to store it well. You want to store popped popcorn in an airtight method and also in a place free of moisture.
People have been known to freeze popped popcorn as well. If you decide to do this, just know that it still won’t be the same as it was fresh, although there are some tips for trying to bring it back to life.
The thing you are most likely to notice with popcorn that has been around for a little while is that it will go stale. However, it is possible to reheat your popcorn as well.
Microwave Popcorn, Un-Popped in the Bag
Finally, we’re going to talk about microwave popcorn. Microwave popcorn packets are usually divided into servings and you can purchase different sizes or styles. They are in bags until you open them and pop them.
How Long Does Microwave Popcorn Last?
Microwave popcorn does have a best-by date on it, much like any other type of food or popcorn. This is not an expiration date but rather a recommendation for enjoying your popcorn with the best quality.
You can expect your microwave popcorn to last somewhere around 6-8 months beyond that printed date without experiencing any dramatic issues.
You probably won’t notice a difference at all. However, there is a possibility that the butter or topping in microwave popcorn could go rancid, so we do recommend that you try to stick to a timeframe within this period.
As the best rule of thumb, if your microwave popcorn is more than 8 months past the printed date, you may want to be cautious with it or throw it out to be on the safe side.
Is It Safe to Eat Expired Microwave Popcorn?
Since this date is a best-by date rather than an expiration, you can probably eat it. Keep in mind that you might want to calculate 6-8 months out and not go beyond that date for quality.
It is safe to eat, but with microwave popcorn, there are also some signs that might indicate it is better to toss it out.
When you take your microwave popcorn out of the plastic wrap, you might notice an odd smell. This is an indication that the oils and butters have started to go rancid. If the smell is slight, you can pop it and taste it.
If you taste the popcorn and something seems off, we recommend that you go ahead and throw it out at that point. You probably should toss out any other bags from the same dated package as well.
You will probably not get sick from eating this popcorn, but it may not settle well and there are always risks to eating spoiled foods.